The duo’s big hitting sees Kings XI Punjab chase down Rajasthan Royals’ 191 with plenty to spare

To be born a bowler and ply the trade at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium is a fate few would look forward to. On Easter Sunday night, Kings XI Punjab prevailed over Rajasthan Royals in an Indian Premier League runathon, which spectators at this event will not forget in a hurry.

Pursuing 192 for victory, the Kings surpassed the target with seven wickets in hand and eight balls to spare. Completing the conquest was David Miller’s 19-ball 51, bejewelled with half a dozen sixes, the foundation laid firm by Glenn Maxwell’s stupendous 89.

If one simply went by the number of sixes scored to establish the winner, the victor’s dozen eclipsed the vanquished’s 10 too.

Incisive bowling by Dhawal Kulkarni and James Faulkner, backed up by some tight fielding, engineered the exits of the bespectacled Virender Sehwag and Wriddhiman Saha well before the latter duo could impact the proceedings.

The tenor, however, presently changed.

First, a chance from Maxwell got grassed at mid-on, for which the Aussie expressed gratitude with a six and a boundary. While Cheteshwar Pujara went into damage control mode, no such concerns worried Maxwell. Carrying forward his good form from two days before, his sixes outnumbered his boundaries in a 28-ball half century, the last two dispatches to the ropes coming by reverse sweeping Rajat Bhatia.

The 25-year-old Victorian took another 17 balls for his scintillating knock that was embellished with half a dozen big hits and eight boundaries. His departure came when, striking skywards again not perhaps with the honeyed timing seen until then, the ball ballooned to long on off Kane Richardson.

Miller, undeterred by his mate’s exit, devastated the bowling, Kulkarni bearing the brunt of the brutal assault.

It was only in the fitness of things that the South African signed off with a six to bring the Kings a truly majestic victory.

Earlier, Kings XI called right and decided to bowl first, the lone change in their squad being Kartik Murali, who came in for Rishi Dhawan. The Royals replaced an unwell Brad Hodge with Steven Smith.

Abhishek Nayar’s drive headed straight for George Bailey and Ajinkya Rahane, backing up at the non-striker’s end was caught hopelessly short by the Punjab captain’s direct hit.

Sanju Vishwanadh’s pull off L. Balaji landed on the canopy behind the mid-wicket boundary, offering enough evidence of what a thankless job a bowler has in this format.

Sanju freed his arms further thumping Kartik Murali into the stands. The left-arm spinner had earlier trapped Nayar in front with his first ball.

The small ground was showered with sixes, the shirtfront letting seamer and spinner alike survive only by his wits, with back-breaking work of little consequence.

The crowds loved the run-fest though.

PTI reports

“I have a plan for each ball, just try and hit different gaps. Depending on the field they set, I know where the ball is going to be. It worries me more that I was not there at the end to hit the winning runs, that was a job half finished,” Maxwell said after the match.

Asked if he was making up for lost time, considering he spent most of last season warming the bench at Mumbai Indians, Maxwell replied in a negative.

“Mumbai had a pretty good side last year. I had to bide my time,” said Maxwell, who was adjudged man-of-the-match.

Winning skipper George Bailey said: “Once again, some extraordinary batting from ‘Maxie’ and David Miller,” he said. “Credit to Rajasthan. They bowled well at the start, hit their lengths better than we did, we fell behind; but the way ‘Maxie’ and Miller batted, it was not an issue,” he said.

Scoreboard

Rajasthan Royals: A Nayar lbw b Kartik 23; A Rahane run out 13; S Samson† b Awana 52; S Watson b Patel 50; S Binny c Miller b Johnson 12; S Smith not out 27; J Faulkner not out 8; Extras (B-2, LB-1, WD-2, NB-1) 6

Total (For 5 wickets in 20 overs) 191

Fall of wickets: 1-22, 2-54, 3-128, 4-144, 5-159.

Bowling: A Patel 4-0-22-1, M Johnson 4-0-29-1, P Awana 4-0-40-1, L Balaji 4-0-46—0, M Kartik 4-0-51-1.

Kings XI Punjab: C Pujara not out 40; V Sehwag c Binny b Kulkarni 2; W Saha c Kulkarni b Faulkner 2; G Maxwell c Smith b Richardson 89; D Miller not out 51; Extras (LB-5, WD-4) 9

Total (For 3 wickets in 18.4 overs) 193

Fall of wickets: 1-5, 2-10, 3-126.

Bowling: K Richardson 3-0-25-1, D Kulkarni 4-0-50-1, J Faulkner 3.4-0-45-1, P Tambe 4-0-26-0, R Bhatia 3-0-38-0, S Binny 1-0-4-0.